Jenna Arcidiacono is the owner and chef of Amore Trattoria italiana.
As I sit here at 1:26 a.m. and write this, I am counting down the days until my family comes home. My daughters are in Italy with my husband Maurizio, and I miss them. You see, family is very important. It is so important that Maurizio wants to make sure that our daughters see their grandparents in Italy often. It is important that they watch their Nonna make bread with her beautifully worn hands everyday. It is important that they see Nonno watering his garden and bringing up the vegetables that grow in it for Nonna to cook for lunch and dinner. It is important that they speak Italian, even when they are shy because they don't know all the exact words. It was important for me, as a young girl, to help my grandma make twice-baked potatoes and set the table. It molded me into who I am now.
It's 1:30 a.m. now and most people are fast asleep. I am just winding down from a Friday night dinner service at Amore, hoping for an email from my nine-year-old daughter. She loves to send me smiley faces and remind me she absolutely can’t live without a One Direction band poster in her room when she gets home. I usually can't sleep before two or three in the morning. Everyone needs time to relax after work, right?
So I check my email and get caught up on my ordering for the weekend. I have to think about which farm I order from on which day. I get updates from all the farmers who have become friends over the past two years. I respect them. They are the hardest working people I know. Pierre from S & S Lamb drives from McBain, Mich. to Grand Rapids at least five times a week to deliver to local restaurants and sit at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market, which is a two-hour drive each way on a good day. That's what I call integrity. Kris from Mud Lake Farms picks the most delicious peppery arugula and dandelion greens and delivers them to me once a week. I know she is tired, but she always has a smile for me and we exchange stories about our past few days. Ingraberg Farms sends me an email update once a week about what's coming up from the soil and tempts me to cook something extra special.
Our state's agriculture is so diverse. These hard-working farmers are having a tough year, so all the more reason to support them. This is the year they need us to step it up. I support the local farms for the same reason they support me. We are all living out our dreams of owning our own business.
The most amazing part about using the local farms is that it inspires creativity in my menu. When I saw that Restaurant Week Grand Rapids had moved to August, I was pumped. This is the time of the year that is the most exciting for us in the kitchen. I am also really big on seasonal eating. There are things that I want to eat in the summer that are lighter, and I love to grill. In the winter, I crave those dishes that are hearty and cheesy. In the fall, I have to have pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage. It all comes back to simplicity.
We should all be proud that our state has so much to offer! Support the local farmers that work hard everyday to feed us delicious heirloom vegetables and fruits, and raise goats, cows and rabbits. There is one thing that I like better than farm-to-fork, and that is fork-to-mouth! I’m confident that you will be able to taste the local difference!
to peruse some menus, and start making your reservations for August 15-25.